Exercise Induced Asthma

EIA describes the exacerbation of a patient’s asthma during/following intensive exercise.  Asthma is characterized by wheezing, shortness of breath, inflammation of the airways (bronchioles, trachea, lungs and surrounding connective tissues of the lung) and persistent coughing until the inflammation subsides.  The cause and subsequent reasons why EIA comes on haven’t been identified completely yet, but 2 theories exist explaining its onset.  The 1st theory describes water loss from the airways during exercise leading to a tightening effect on the soft tissues of the lung and throat creating increased inflammation (via inflammatory chemicals due to the body’s immune response); the 2nd theory notes that hyperventilation during exercise leads to a temporary temperature drop in the airways.  Following exercise, the airways re-warm enlarging the airways, creating increased blood flow, fluid, and the release of inflammatory chemicals, resulting in airway constriction.  With either theory, participation of sports in cool, dry air seems to worsen EIA in athletes.
4 factors that are least likely to cause EIA include:
1) Intermittent Exercise/Team Games
2) Swimming (be careful with this sport because of the air quality in the facility you swim in)
3) Exercising in warm, humid air
4) Exercising outside of the pollen season and/or in non-polluted air (if possible)
4 Factors most likely to cause EIA include:
1) Continuous hard exercise (i.e. running)
2) Exercise in cool, dry environments/climates
3) Exercising with a current upper or lower respiratory infection
4) Exercising indoors (swimming pools, ice rinks) or outdoors with poor air quality and/or during the pollen season
Most athletes are aware of their EIA and may be on possible inhalers to decrease symptoms.  If you are not on prescription medication (most likely in the form of an inhaler), discuss this with your primary care doctor to see which one may be the right fit based on your medical history if he/she does decide that you need an inhaler.  If you are an athlete that trains year-round, discuss your history with your chiropractor, trainer, or PCP to minimize your risks to optimize athletic performance.  Making sure you are aware of your risks will limit its impact as you play and train, and increase your ability to perform well.
Stay tuned to next month’s blog…
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